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Why Rafa’s Appointment Was Spot-on


CHOULO19

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Why Rafa’s Appointment Was Spot-on




I realize some people will stop reading after that tittle, but for those who ventured on at least to the first sentence, I promise you I have a good reason why I’m making this controversial claim. Let me start by saying that I hate the Spanish waiter, I mean manager, as much as the next Chelsea fan. He may be the manager but he will never truly be a part of Chelsea Football Club. However, for reasons I will attempt to explain below, his appointment in this transitory season was necessary for the club’s future.


Di Matteo had to go:

It’s not that Robbie deserved the sack, it’s that he should never have been appointed in the first place. I love Roberto; I loved him even before the CL win. But, the sentiments and emotional high of winning the CL aside, can anyone really make a case why RDM should manage Chelsea? Roberto was never a great tactician and we all knew that his tactics could never last and more importantly were not taking the club forward.

Just to be clear, I am in no way discrediting Robbie or belittling his achievements in the cups last season. But the club was moving in a completely different direction. His appointment might have been a couple of months after the CL win, but it was a completely new era for the club. We were finally moving on from what Jose built here and the team was being rebuilt around players like Mata and Hazard; players who thrive on possession. The defensive tactics in big games could not work anymore; the Juve and Athletico fiascos are proof of that.

And even more important than that, imo, were our offensive tactics, or rather lack of. In some games, like against Stoke and Liverpool, I was left wondering if we even had an attacking system. Our plan seemed to be “give the ball to Mata” and at times it looked like we completely ran out of ideas.

Yes, we had a great start to the season, but that was more due to the high of winning the CL and our new players which no team knew how to defend against yet. Let’s not kid ourselves; we were playing very badly for a few weeks before RDM was sacked. We needed a manager to get the team working on new defensive tactics, to create an attacking system, to help our new young players fit in the system…in short, we needed a manager to prep the team to challenge for the title next season, and sadly, that manager was not Roberto Di Matteo.


Rafa has done well:

Rafa has undoubtedly made some eyebrow-raising decisions and, yes, his late subs had us all banging our heads against a wall at some point in the past few months. And sure, his rotation policy has decreased the lifetime expectancy of the average Chelsea fan, but when I say he has done well I don’t mean in a particular match, but rather in general.

You need only to watch a match from the start of the season to see the difference Benitez has made in the team. It is obvious, to me at least, that the team has become much more organized, especially defensively. The players also look more knowledgeable and comfortable with their roles. We look better offensively with our fullbacks getting involved and the players off the ball making good movements and runs; things we missed badly under Roberto. That is an excellent achievement if you consider how little time Benitez had with the team. We’ve played two games per week for every week since Rafa arrived. That means that all he could do between matches has been some light training. The team has not had any real time to work on new systems and tactics at Cobham.

Moreover, perhaps the most important work Benitez has done with the team is improve the game of some of some of our key players. For starters, he’s made Azpi first-choice RB who’s been absolutely immense there. So influential, especially in attack; he’s constantly the man with most touches on the ball in all of our matches. And he’s kept on getting better game after game, which you can only credit the manager for (although he currently could use a rest). Rafa has improved Mata and Hazard’s game, as well. Especially in the case of the latter where he now fits better in the team’s system and has learnt to track back and perform the defensive part of his duties. And apart from the failed midfield experiment, Rafa has also done very well with David Luiz who did not have a good start to the season in terms of form, but has been our best CB in 2013 by some distance. He looks so much more disciplined and less error prone.

As for Rafa’s rotation policy, it’s one of those things where if we win then the manager is a genius and if we lose then it’s all the manager’s fault. Yes the rotation has probably cost us a couple of matches, but when you consider the insane amount of games we’ve played this season and that the core of our team is a group of young players with limited experience, you have to come to the conclusion that the rotation tactics were pretty much spot-on.


Conclusion:

This was always going to a season of transition from Jose’s Chelsea to our future team. It’s been overdue for two or three seasons now. We needed this season to prep our players, especially those who are likely to become the spine of the team, for the coming years. The new manager that will come in the summer will need a team with strong basics in order to compete for trophies. Basics like a solid defensive and offensive system, with close lines and players that know and fit their roles. We did not have that under Roberto Di Matteo. So the board went out and got Rafael Benitez who was probably the best man for the job with the lack of options available. And although we all hate to admit it, he has done well if you look at the bigger picture. The work he’s done here is, imo, crucial for us competing for the title next season. He gave the team some sort of defensive and offensive structures. He dealt fairly well with the crazy schedule and has vastly improved our key players. Basically he gave our next manager a team that, with some minor adjustments and a couple of additions, can challenge for the tittle.

It’s much easier making this observation in hindsight. Did the board really have all this in mind when RDM was replaced by Benitez? Maybe they did and maybe they didn’t. But since Gourlay and the board usually get enough criticism from me, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for this one and congratulate them on making the difficult, but imo right choice back in November. Because as far as I’m concerned, the past 6 months have proved that Rafa’s appointment was spot-on.

EDIT: Just to make one point very clear, this article is in NO WAY trying to say that Rafa should stay past this season or that he could be a long-term success here, just that the work he's done will help the next Chelsea manager.

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Certainly, something is well written above.

Just one thing, you forgot to add.

Rafa´s appointment was never gonna work. There is too much hatred towards him. Therefore, it brought more pressure on the team, than anything else.

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Well, the board certainly don't pay attention to the media I'll give them that, unashamedly bold & brash decision making. Although in terms of the hiring and firing, why fix what isn't broken?

The team has lacked the most 'basic' organisation at times though (Southampton), an 'improvement' on Robbie.. but I use the term loosely. In his defense, as you stated.. the fixtures have been coming in thick and fast, it's not like he's had extended periods to work on it.

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@CHOULO19,

First of, Good read.

But I disagree with your point - 'Rafa has done well'. I will not forget the terrible Winter period just because we play well in a few games. We might be 3rd right now, but there is a very real danger of missing out Top 4.

Better wait till May before judging Rafa's reign

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I'm sorry, but he will always be the guy who switched right backs when we needed a goal, and then switches strikers when we are protecting a lead. Leaves Demba on the bench in favour of putting benayoun on. I don't think we have been that much better defensively, and hazard and mata have been great all season. Hazard had an amazing start of the season so i don't see how he has made him or mata better, His rotation policy is far too extreme imo. Resting players has gone far over the top, and we can never get a consistent team going which is not ideal at all.

So for me his appointment has been dreadful. He needs to prioritise the premier league, and we have gone downhill since his appointment, if you were gonna sack RDM do it at the start of the season. Not when we are just 4 points of the lead, and because we got knocked out of the champions league.

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Certainly, something is well written above.

Just one thing, you forgot to add.

Rafa´s appointment was never gonna work. There is too much hatred towards him. Therefore, it brought more pressure on the team, than anything else.

Well that depends on your definition of "work". If you were expecting us to win the league, then I don't think any manager would have "worked". But what I'm trying to say above is that I believe it has worked. Because imo the most important objective of this season was not trophies, but to get the team to gel together and have some sort of system that kinda works so we can build on that next season and then challenge for trophies.

@CHOULO19,

First of, Good read.

But I disagree with your point - 'Rafa has done well'. I will not forget the terrible Winter period just because we play well in a few games. We might be 3rd right now, but there is a very real danger of missing out Top 4.

Better wait till May before judging Rafa's reign

I realize the point I'm trying to make is highly unpopular and pretty radical, but you are 100% right, if we fail to make top 4, this will all mean nothing. But assume that we do make top four, the point I'm making is that Rafa has done some work with the team that may not have been reflected on results this season but will be very important for next season. Aside from top 4, I think this was our objective this season and not the trophies.

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Well that depends on your definition of "work". If you were expecting us to win the league, then I don't think any manager would have "worked". But what I'm trying to say above is that I believe it has worked. Because imo the most important objective of this season was not trophies, but to get the team to gel together and have some sort of system that kinda works so we can build on that next season and then challenge for trophies.

I realize the point I'm trying to make is highly unpopular and pretty radical, but you are 100% right, if we fail to make top 4, this will all mean nothing. But assume that we do make top four, the point I'm making is that Rafa has done some work with the team that may not have been reflected on results this season but will be very important for next season. Aside from top 4, I think this was our objective this season and not the trophies.

Chelsea are expected to win CL, PL, FA...every year. Nothing less satisfies Roman.

Transition year as you put it, could have gone much smoother had the management used their pea brains.

The bottom line. The team is too thin.

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Rafa couldn't be blamed for our horribly inconsisent, so-far-trophyless season, I mean, if the board were serious 'bout any trophy or even winning the premier league, they would of bought a defensive midfielder and a amuaazing striker(nothing agaisnt BA) but they didn't which kinda explain they were only looking for a top 4 finish, and If Rafa gets that, than it's JOB DONE :P

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Chelsea are expected to win CL, PL, FA...every year. Nothing less satisfies Roman.

Transition year as you put it, could have gone much smoother had the management used their pea brains.

The bottom line. The team is too thin.

And in order to win those trophies in the future we needed a proper transition season. Don't get me wrong, I blame the board for A LOT of terrible decisions leading to this season, including hiring RDM when we all knew he was going to get sacked shortly after and going into this season with this thin squad, I'm just saying that this particular decision in hiring Rafa was, in hindsight the right one because under RDM we would not have had the proper transition season needed to challenge for all those trophies next season. Yes, we probably would have been in a better position in the league and would have won the World Cup, but in the broader scheme for the future interest of the club, it would have been a season wasted.

I'm sorry, but he will always be the guy who switched right backs when we needed a goal, and then switches strikers when we are protecting a lead. Leaves Demba on the bench in favour of putting benayoun on. I don't think we have been that much better defensively, and hazard and mata have been great all season. Hazard had an amazing start of the season so i don't see how he has made him or mata better, His rotation policy is far too extreme imo. Resting players has gone far over the top, and we can never get a consistent team going which is not ideal at all.

So for me his appointment has been dreadful. He needs to prioritise the premier league, and we have gone downhill since his appointment, if you were gonna sack RDM do it at the start of the season. Not when we are just 4 points of the lead, and because we got knocked out of the champions league.

I'm not denying he has made some terrible decisions, I said so in the article, but the results aside for a moment, we are tactically a much better team under Rafa. Hazard for example who had an excellent start, offensively, to the season, was leaving the fullback completely exposed defensively under RDM, and even offensively after the first month or so he started to disappear in matches because the opposition had learnt how defend against him. Now, not only does he do his defensive duties, but his involvement in the attack is always good because he's fit in the team's system instead of playing individually like he was under Robbie.

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If we go out of the fa cup,europa league and finish 5th then this article will become a laughing stock.

Completely agree. I know I'm putting my neck out there with this article, but I think it's worth it if everyone can look at the matter with a different perspective.

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One thing I must commend 19 with. He must have studied marketing, lately.

Controversial topics always brought plenty of bombastic opinions here.

When I said, Rafa is not a bad coach several months ago, I was attacked with vengeance.

As for transition period, there was no need to wait this year & loan out so many players, I feel.

So much talent out there, Chelsea could have done better with some of them.

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One thing I must commend 19 with. He must have studied marketing, lately.

Controversial topics always brought plenty of bombastic opinions here.

When I said, Rafa is not a bad coach several months ago, I was attacked with vengeance.

Hey, there's no such thing as bad publicity, right? :P

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Good article again.

Rafa's job is to just get the cup and get us 3rd place. Our players just need to keep improving so we can mount a title challenge next season. Lots of poor decision making by the board has severely delayed our transition. This shouldn't happen again! In any good club the transition doesn't cause as many problems as it has here.

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I tend to agree with you on the Robbie case..

but about Rafa, he did sort out some basic things that we lacked, and yea the team has improved on some level, but still its not enough.. we still keep losing important games (easy ones aswell) and we still need improvement.

Also, Rafa was never going to work.. how can it work when 90% of the fans hate the man's guts ? with hostile environment at the Bridge, with the fans hating on everything Rafa does, how was it ever going to work ?

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The problem is that Rafa has not done well. We have a worse overall winning percentage under Rafa than under RDM with a much easier schedule. We have played very few difficult fixtures under Rafa. I'm talking about maybe 10-15% difficult matches..We're winning most of the easier games, but we did that under RDM as well and our worst losses of the season have almost all come under Rafa.

I'd say our most difficult games played so far this season have been Juventus, City, Spurs, and Arsenal away, and ManU and Juventus at home. All but one came under RDM. Of our worst results this season, Brentford draw, QPR loss and draw, West Ham loss, Southampton loss and draw, Reading draw, all but one have come under Rafa. I never really hated him, but he hasn't done a good job. We're beating teams we should be beating and even then at a lower rate than we should be or that we did under RDM.

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The problem is that Rafa has not done well. We have a worse overall winning percentage under Rafa than under RDM with a much easier schedule. We have played very few difficult fixtures under Rafa. I'm talking about maybe 10-15% difficult matches..We're winning most of the easier games, but we did that under RDM as well and our worst losses of the season have almost all come under Rafa.

I'd say our most difficult games played so far this season have been Juventus, City, Spurs, and Arsenal away, and ManU and Juventus at home. All but one came under RDM. Of our worst results this season, Brentford draw, QPR loss and draw, West Ham loss, Southampton loss and draw, Reading draw, all but one have come under Rafa. I never really hated him, but he hasn't done a good job. We're beating teams we should be beating and even then at a lower rate than we should be or that we did under RDM.

Just add to the above. Rafa inherited the team already in shambles.

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